There is nothing quite like statistics. You can do almost anything you like with them. Statistics estimate that Australians will spend over $6.5 billion in the “battle of the bulge” this year. Sounds a lot!
When you drill down a bit, the situation looks a bit different. Roughly half of the total is spending on gym memberships, personal training, home gym equipment and club memberships. Another 40% is on sports goods and athletic apparel (including shoes). So most of this money may have nothing to do with weight loss at all.
In fact only 10% of the total is actually spent on weight loss products and services. Whilst $600 million is a lot of money it is a long way short of over six billion.
There are many disconnects in the health messages we get. On the one hand there is constant doom and gloom predictions from those in public health. The usual woe is me stuff about obesity, cholesterol and alcohol, to name but three. On the other is the reality that life expectancy is continuing to increase at a steady rate. It is going up at around one quarter of a year per year. It has been doing this for over 100 years and the graph is not reaching a plateau.
We are told that carrying a few extra kilograms is a major health hazard and that two thirds of the population is overweight or obese. This, of course comes from using the BMI as a sole marker of health and having the cut off set ridiculously low. Major work has repeatedly shown that having a BMI of up to 30 does not have any impact on life expectancy.
People may choose to lose weight for a variety of reasons but living longer is not one of them, unless you are seriously overweight and have associated health issues.
And we have also been told to avoid fats in the diet for the last 40 years on the basis that it will reduce our chances if having a heart attack. Yet reviews of trial data have now shown a different picture altogether as I wrote about earlier this year. And “Time For Butter” was the front page of Time Magazine a few months back.
This is the critical point. Much medical “science” is based on statistical analysis of observational data. Depending on what questions are asked and how the numbers are crunched you can get quite different results. And to cap it all off because of statistical “rules” there is a one in 20 chance that any finding in a medical trial is pure co-incidence. Or put another way at the very least one in every 20 trials are going to be wrong!
That would not matter if it were not for the dogmatic attitude of those in health authorities who like the high priests of old seek to quash any heresy.
Medical knowledge is constantly evolving. There are also major problems with how that knowledge is disseminated and promoted. And some big question marks over what we are told to accept as fact.
My view, as always is to be questioning.